America Online Inc.
(AOL) head Jon Miller wants AOL dropped from its parent company’s name so that any “controversy or criticism” involving the corporate entity doesn’t damage the Internet unit’s brand, Miller wrote in an e-mail to his staff sent Monday.
Miller’s e-mail, which was provided to IDG News Service by a company representative Tuesday, caps over a year of speculation of whether AOL would be lopped off the AOL Time Warner Inc. (AOLTW) name.
But while some thought it was the Time Warner division of the company that wanted to slough off its AOL moniker given the unit’s recent accounting concerns, slowed growth and executive shakeups, Miller’s e-mail says that he initiated the discussion of a name change.
“Recently, I told (AOLTW Chairman and Chief Executive Officer) Dick Parsons that I have concluded that AOL’s brand would benefit from being removed from the corporate name, and Dick is considering this step,” Miller wrote.
Miller noted that “AOL” had become the shorthand name for AOL Time Warner in headlines and he feared that consumers would confuse the Internet brand with the entire media conglomerate.
“As AOL Time Warner became known as, for all intents and purposes, ‘AOL,’ any controversy or criticism involving the corporate entity has actually hit our consumer brand,” he wrote.
Miller’s efforts to distance the AOL brand from its parent company come as the latest twist in the tumultuous marriage of AOL and Time Warner. Former Time Warner executives have publicly said that AOL has dragged down the merged company’s results and sunk its share price, which uses the ticker symbol “AOL.”
Miller wrote in his e-mail that he recognized fully that many would see AOL as diminished if it was dropped from the AOLTW name, but he said he believed that the Internet unit needed to get its brand back.
The name change is expected to be discussed when the company’s board meets next month.